After a year or so hiatus, Celebrity Apprentice returned this week with sixteen contestants. Some are big names, others are pseudo-celebrities and the last couple are at least vaguely recognizable. Like last time around, the newbies were split into boys and girls’ teams, providing a seemingly stable balance of intelligence among the two teams, but a big edge to the guys in terms of star power. As we’ve seen in year’s past, status in no way equates to success, but it may push more viewers to root for the guys, at least until they get to know everyone. Plus they have Gary Busey. I’m not sure there’s a woman in the world with that much walking entertainment value. He’s like a monkey in a tuxedo that does magic, Jackass stunts and improv comedy.

The boys, or team Backbone as they dubbed themselves, elected Survivor winner Richard Hatch with little disagreement to be their first project manager. He volunteered, and well, we’ve all seen the fates people have suffered that openly question his leadership. Picking a project manager for the girls, team ASAP (artists, singers, authors and professionals), was a bit more sketchy. After no one stepped forward, they verbally harangued former View host Star Jones into begrudgingly taking the lead, though this decision ultimately paid off.

The challenge was to open a pizza parlor to raise money for charity, and despite some questionable managerial decisions, the girls kicked ass from the first pepperoni. Not only did they make a better tasting pizza, they also had better connected friends who donated thousands of dollars. The Hatch-led boys’ team undoubtedly served more random customers, attracted more attention and moved people out more efficiently, but none of that matters when the girls got people to pay upwards of forty grand for one pie. In total, they nearly tripled the men in receipts, but along the way, they also managed to rip their jeans right down the ASAP. Lisa Rinna and Star Jones hate each other. This was clear about five minutes into the challenge, but it didn’t blow up until the boardroom, an act which forced fellow teammates to choose sides and further divide the house. Nasty. Not that the dudes didn’t have their own drama drama.

Richard Hatch has sketchy people skills at best. Throughout the challenge, he was short with teammates, and at one point, pushed former teen heartthrob David Cassidy. He responded with whining, and when he and Hatch argued for their lives alongside Jose Canseco, the result wasn’t pretty. Frequently looking to the baseball player for support and shyly complaining about being pushed, he angered the whole Trump family, especially Ivanka, who did everything but overtly question his manhood. You need to stick up for yourself. You need to project that you’re worthy of respect. David Cassidy couldn’t do either of those things, and The Donald send him packing, much to the chagrin of Jose Conseco--who admitted he wanted to punch Hatch.

Next week will be a shit show, but for now, we’re left to analyze and wonder how the ship went off course so quickly. Cinema Blend can’t give you a definite answer on that, but it can give you a rundown on the remaining contestants and their chances of winning. From this point forward, we will bring you a weekly Celebrity Apprentice Power Rankings each Wednesday. The format is simple. Cinema Blend writers Mack Rawden and Jessica Grabert will each compile their own ordered lists of the strongest remaining contestants. Eighteen points will be assigned for a first place vote, seventeen for a second and so on down the line. Eliminated contestants will automatically occupy the bottom slots; therefore, this week, with only David Cassidy eliminated, a last place vote received two points. Here’s a look at how the combined voting shook down with a brief explanation for each remaining competitor…

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The Favorites

#1) John Rich (31): Most known for his “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy” fame, John Rich came from the wall works in Episode One to bring in a significant number of contacts and be an all-around player for his team. As long as he maintains a good attitude and a well-spoken demeanor in the boardroom and during the competitions, he has a high chance of succeeding, or at least saving his own hide.

#2) Niki Taylor (29): Who knew the model was such an ace in the kitchen? This week Niki Taylor was unquestionably one of the strongest players on the girls’ side, but she didn’t place second in the rankings because of her skillful ingredient chopping. She’s here because she commanded just the right level of respect from her teammates. While women like Star and Lisa piss each other off and waste time complaining, Niki put her head down, got to work and interjected when she needed to interject. If you’re not the project manager, your job is do whatever task you were delineated with as much effort as you can. She did that, and there’s little doubt in my mind she won’t do it over and over again. We’ll see how she does as project manager. We already know she’s a capable second banana.

#3) Richard Hatch (27): Hatch is a dick. Contestants are always going to have issues with him. He’s uncompromisingly blunt, and smug to boot, plus, he’s well aware of it. If you’ve seen the first season of Survivor, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, just catch this week’s episode of Apprentice, where Hatch rails on David Cassidy and Jose Conseco alike. Notice while Hatch plays the asshole, he’s often right, for example: Cassidy was a weak player and Conseco is limited by the inability to understand certain situations properly. Hatch is uncompromising, but he is smart, and he’s very good at defending himself. Otherwise, his ass would have been on the elevator home this week. He seems to be around for the long haul…or most of it.

#3) Marlee Matlin (27): Matlin proved this week she is probably the most eloquent speaker of the season. When issues were blatant among the girls, a few choice words from Matlin calmed the situations down considerably. The deaf actress has proven she’s a capable worker and a needed part of the team. However, only a stint as project manager will tell us if she’s a Summer Sanders--a hard worker, but never a leader--or, if she can push through and play like Holly Robinson Peete.

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The Contenders

#5) Lisa Rinna (25): The battle between Lisa and Star is on. Celebrity Apprentice likely only has room for one unflinching, aggressive woman, and my money is on Lisa outlasting her nemesis. Unfortunately, in order for that to happen, she’s gonna need at least a few of the girls on her side. Richard Hatch may be able to go into battle against David Cassidy and Jose Canseco and somehow save his ass, but I’m less confident in Lisa if she faces down Star and a Star supporter. We’ll see if that happens, but for the time being, I’m convinced she’s the stronger player and thus, places higher in my rankings.

#6) Meatloaf (21): Meatloaf is a competent and affable guy. He worked the register effectively and was more than willing to put his head down and work when that was needed. If this was all Celebrity Apprentice entailed, I would have him right up there next to Niki Taylor, but at some point, he’s going to need to lead a team. I have full confidence in his dedication and people skills, but can a man named Meat Loaf really be organized enough to pull off a large task? I remain skeptical. For the record though, he is my favorite contestant.

#7) Mark McGrath (20): Mark McGrath was actually fifth on my personal list. Here’s my rationale: he does a hell of a lot of things pretty well. First, he was a pretty good hard rock singer. Then he was a pretty good pop musician, a pretty good Extra co-host, a pretty good Don’t Forget The Lyrics emcee. He even won the Rock N Roll Jeopardy challenge. I’m yet to find anything he isn’t noticeably above average at. Can he win? Unlikely, but I would be shocked to see him go before at least the halfway point.

#8) Star Jones (19): Star seems like she could be a good competitor, and her mouth is certainly as sharp as a razor, but as a delegator, she sucks. It’s a good thing she had a $40,000 dollar donation from a buddy this week, or it might have been her cute rear on its way home. While the boys were efficiently pumping out product until the last second, Star closed shop for the last 2 HOURS her pizza parlor was supposed to be open. She might work under people to make it to the middle, but she’ll have a lot to prove if she’s ever project manager, again.

#9) Lil Jon (17): Lil Jon has two large things going for him: his higher level of fame than most of the competitors, and his contacts. His music shows up everywhere, it was even spoofed in 2009’s The Proposal, for chrissakes, and a chance to meet Lil Jon could bring in crowds at challenges. Lil Jon also proved he could pull in a ton of his own contacts to gain money for the men’s team. God knows if he has any leadership skills, but if he get’s low, he’ll have a chance to stick around for a while.

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The Dark Horses

#10) Hope Dworaczyk (13): What do you say about someone that did almost nothing during the first episode? She wasn’t a hindrance to her team, but she certainly didn’t do anything positive. She merely existed, which is strange for a model who likely always draws a crowd. She’ll be fine for the next few weeks blending in, but at some point, both teams are going to perform very well on a task. It’s those instances that merely showing up ultimately proves to be not enough.

#11) Nene Leakes (10): Like her teammate Hope, Nene wasn’t shown doing a whole lot of anything during the first challenge. You’d be totally fair in asking why she’s been rated lower, but I have an answer for that. During the boardroom, Nene was very willing to speak her mind. Rather than give a diplomatic answer, she told The Donald the pizza delivery fiasco was Lisa’s fault. If you want to come out guns a blazing like Richard Hatch, that’s fine, but at that point, you will sink or swim based on your own merits. Nene might prove to be a great competitor, but as of now, she’s shown nothing, except a feistiness that will require her to prove herself sooner than most.

#12) Gary Busey (9): People laugh when Gary Busey speaks. Or, more considerably, people laugh at Gary Busey when he speaks. A riot to have around, and seemingly a hard worker, Busey’s weirdness and inability to cognate rational thoughts will probably keep him from being a deft project manager. One step away from the team and into “Busey world, where irrationality reigns supreme” for lack of a better term, will probably get his ass sent home.

#12) Latoya Jackson (9): Here’s a fun idea for a drinking game: Take one drink every time Latoya Jackson fiddles with her hair, jewelry, or nails. Take another drink anytime a member of the Jackson family or Jackson family is mentioned, unless it is Michael. If Latoya Jackson mentions the recently deceased pop star, finish that drink, baby. I don’t know about you, but I’m not rooting for Mrs. Celebrity Prowess to go home. She makes Celebrity Apprentice so much fun.

#14) Jose Canseco (8): Called out for a lack of intelligence in the boardroom by Richard Hatch, I perhaps found it harder to rate the former 40/40 baseball star than any other contestant. He really is a hard worker. He cranked those pizzas out like he had something to prove, but it still remains to be seen whether he can actually organize the operation. We know he no longer has any powerful friends that can donate money, but neither do a couple of the other contestants. That may not preclude him from winning, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot harder. Near the end of the episode, he quietly told Hatch he likes it when people underestimate him. Maybe so, but I’ll need to see some good ideas of effective planning before I move him up the list.

#15) Dionne Warwick (4): Dionne Warwick’s being on this season of Celebrity Apprentice is a BIG deal. Warwick’s been on the Billboard charts almost as often as Aretha Franklin. As a performer, she’s awesome. As a business worker, not so much. Warwick is old, a little out of touch—case in point, this week she had trouble working a credit card machine. She also doesn’t take criticism well. When Star Jones asked her to step aside, Warwick refused. Jones let her stay in the position she was unsuited for, but that bit of mismanagement is a horse of a different color. We don’t expect Warwick to last much longer, but if she hides out on the sidelines, she could be around for a bit.

Here’s a look at how each of the two ballots shook out:

John Rich (16)
Nikki Taylor (15)
Richard Hatch (14)
Lisa Rinna (13)
Mark McGrath (12)
Marlee Matlin (11)
Meatloaf (10)
Star Jones (9)
Lil Jon (8)
Hope Dworaczyk (7)
Nene Leakes (6)
Jose Conseco (5)
Gary Busey (4)
Latoya Jackson (3)
Dionne Warwick(2)
Marlee Matlin (16)
John Rich (15)
Niki Taylor (14)
Richard Hatch (13)
Lisa Rinna (12)
Meatloaf (11)
Star Jones (10)
Lil Jon (9)
Mark McGrath (8)
Latoya Jackson (7)
Hope Dworaczyk (6)
Gary Busey (5)
Nene Leakes (4)
Jose Canseco (3)
Dionne Warwick(2)
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